Multicultural Marketing: Ignore It at Your Own Peril

February 15

As we marketing communications professionals look at America today, we see phenomenal and profound demographic changes that have taken place over the past half century. Unfortunately, some of us have ignored the fact that these demographic changes call for recognition as to how we market our products and services. There are others who naively believe that "one size fits all" when it comes to our marketing programs. Attracting and hiring diverse personnel requires customizing or tailoring your message and graphics, if appropriate, to become more successful. Let's look at some simple, basic facts:

  • The Census Bureau states that ethnic Americans, specifically, Hispanic-Americans, African-Americans, and Asian-Pacific-Americans, make up over 25 percent of the U.S. population and predicts by 2010, this figure will be 33 percent and by 2040, it will be 53 percent.
  • The aforementioned ethnic Americans are increasing in population seven times as fast as non-ethnic Americans.
  • The spending power of Hispanic-Americans, African-Americans and Asian-Pacific-Americans has doubled over the past decade to $1.4 trillion and continues to skyrocket. They are opening businesses, getting better educated, buying homes, and living the American Dream at rates far surpassing the "mainstream" market.
  • Today's ethnic consumers represent the largest, most overlooked market in America. Companies who target and` capture these markets today will position themselves for security and success in the years to come.

Multicultural marketing and diversity recruitment initiatives, therefore, are not just "causes", they are good for business. It is a sign of respect for the growing prominence of "minority consumers". Multicultural and diversity recruitment advertising efforts should therefore be considered an intelligent response to the growing power of minority individuals as consumers, employees and citizens. Although figures are not available for recruitment, according to the American Association of Advertising Agencies, while consumer advertising spending has risen to over $250 billion per year, only $2 billion of it was targeted to ethnic markets. This is unequal treatment of consumer markets so fundamental to product success. While efforts are made within recruitment as well as traditional advertising to show a "rainbow" of employees, many communications efforts lack a well-defined diversity strategy.

To maintain and increase a competitive market share in the future, companies must reach out in every way possible to develop strong relationships within communities of color. Remember that the average person does not neatly compartmentalize the image of an organization based upon different types of communications. The overall impact of corporate, product and recruitment advertising must show that an organization values the diversity of it communities. This can only be done by dramatically increasing the level of all advertising expenditures that target ethnic consumers and job candidates, which are often two roles played by the same person. While individual minority consumers have less disposable income than their white counterparts, studies show that they spend it at a faster rate. Furthermore, minority consumers are brand conscious and brand loyal, thereby making targeted efforts more effective. Thus, for many companies, multicultural advertising must be more than a short-term scheme to avert some political crisis. Efforts to diversify all aspects of the advertising industry must be a fundamental part of corporation's long-term economic planning, because they all have a direct impact on the bottom line.

Yet, while the reasons for multicultural and diversity recruitment advertising seem endless, many continue to resist. Companies still have to be convinced that targeted advertising campaigns work. They continue to take the purchasing power of their minority customers for granted. Business leaders have cultural blinders, obstructing their ability to see non-traditional, but lucrative markets and potential of diverse job seekers. Blatant disregard of minority consumers or token efforts assume that the general market is the only factor in determining the success or failure of consumer goods, services and hiring initiatives. There are those who believe that minority consumers will not be moved by advertising, as their white counterparts are. In other words, they believe that ethnic markets are not viable. This is wrong. Minority consumers and job seekers will identify with the companies that best serve them and the companies that court them.

Let's face it. We believe that online and traditional advertising is the most formidable media force in the day-to-day lives of most Americans. Advertisers and their agencies possess tremendous power to persuade Americans what to buy but also what to think about themselves, their neighbors, their communities, and the world we live in. It's the power clients look for in their agencies when investing multimillion-dollar ad budgets. It's up to marketers and their agencies to use that power to put a realistic face on America. When ethnic Americans see themselves and their lives portrayed in ad campaigns, it makes people of all races feel they're part of a greater whole and fosters a sense of inclusion among our society's broad racial spectrum. For marketers, HR leaders and ad agencies alike, to prepare and execute plans without consideration given to multicultural marketing and strategic diversity communications is a disservice to the growth and success of your organization.

Ron Owens is Vice President, Diversity & Inclusion for TMP Worldwide.

For more detailed information, contact your TMP Worldwide representative.

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